Sedona, AZ - more than pretty rocks.
"Look at the rocks!" It's a bit of humor shared at my house knowing on any road trip or travel excursion I'm going to burst out with this exclamation. Sometimes, the family even tries to beat me to it by simply saying "Rocks!" (Which is great, because that means they *are* looking at their surroundings!) It's in my nature to connect to the land in some way that isn't always about what's green and blooming (although I very much like that, too). There is something about the desert with its hidden treasures you see in obvious ways (because how can you not see those mountains!?) but also in the smallest leaflets, petals, spines, and textures.
When a friend gifted me a trip to Sedona, Arizona, I knew I'd be looking at a lot of rocks (Joy!). I have been to Sedona many times and lived in AZ for decades. And I love to go back and visit from Texas any chance I get. It was exciting to be back among the mountains, the rocks, and the contrast of the red land and blue sky. I knew Sedona, Arizona was more than pretty rocks. When we did a bonus flower identification hike all the little details were satisfied, too! The Forest Ranger said it would be more like a stroll, and even less than a walk, and much less a hike. He was right, it was leisurely and informative. (Pictured below, purple mustard, Indian paintbrush, banana yucca in bloom).
There are so many trails one can take in the red rock canyons of Sedona, Arizona. They range from beginner to intermediate to advanced. The length of the hike and various challenges on pathways plus previous skill levels should be assessed before venturing out. And always take more water than you think you'll need. While hiking one of the trails we came to an area where it was divided into "difficult" and "intermediate." (see picture below). I remember pausing and quietly tapping into my internal compass about which direction I would take when my friends chose the difficult path. They are, of course, much more familiar with the area and clearly comfortable with taking a difficult version of a beginner trek. I, however, was not as quickly convinced.
I looked ahead. What made the two pathways different? They appeared to go somewhat parallel to each other, one went higher (intermediate) and one lower (difficult). It wasn't until I was on the other side of the pathway (the picture you are seeing above) that I saw the "difficult" path was much closer to the sloped edge of the rocks. I call it "ledge-y". Too much ledge. I know that's not even good sentence structure, but when making decisions on a rock edge, that's what you get. (And looking at this picture taken with my phone, after reaching the other side, I can't help but justify that it felt a lot steeper in person).
The path is marked to create awareness for mountain bikers of what's ahead depending on their skill and balance. Although, in my case, it also applied to hikers.
The funny part is it meets back up to a single trail. Isn't that nature reflecting a bit of a life lesson there? It's all one trail. Some will be more comfortable, educated, physically and mentally ready, or have the skill level to choose which way they proceed. But in the end, it's still one pathway in and one pathway out. The adventure is in the middle.
In reality, I of course could have taken the difficult path. But mentally, I could not have managed the edge. I don't mind being high up, but being near an edge creates this weird feeling where I lose my feet, then my legs, like they are erased with some giant pink eraser and I'm just a floating torso that can't move. I did not want to leave my friends with the task of moving a floating torso, so I kept myself together and choose the path that was right for me. Intermediate.
Depending on what path we travel, how we are prepared, and what we want to get out of our journey, we can certainly make things more difficult or intermediate than they need to be. And I also believe we can create any of these to be experienced easily as well. We have a lot of power in our experiences. Our journey at a crossroads can be satisfying no matter how we get to the other side.
One of the days exploring Uptown (the touristy area of Sedona), my friend and I paused after coming out of a shop when a mom walked past us with her small children following her like young ducklings, each with a newly scooped ice cream mound upon a small waffle cone. The last little guy walked past us and upon his first lick, the entire ice cream scoop landed with a splat on the sidewalk. We called for "Mom" as Little Guy burst into tears. Mom quickly scurried over, calmly grabbed the cream from the sidewalk, and showed Dad the ice cream in her hand. Dad had just arrived - he was the last to leave the ice cream shop, probably staying to pay for the yummies. He turned right around and went back inside the ice cream shop.
Mom leaned toward my friend and me whispering, "We just had this happen in the ice cream shop. This is the second time!" She wasn't angry, as some parents can be out of embarrassment. Rather, it was like she understood her son was simply on the difficult path that day, and in the end, he'd meet back up with everyone else, ice cream and all.
In contrast to the bright sun and dry landscape of our hikes, high in the canyons along Hwy 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona near the Oak Creek Visitor Center is a small cafe with a hidden garden in the back. Among the Coronado Forest and desert landscape threshold of sheer mountainside has nestled an oasis of red leaf oaks, blooming dogwoods, purple vincas, good food, and very nice staff. On the other side of the street rushes Oak Creek full of snowmelt at the time of this writing from a very wet winter, cold and bouncy as it sounds a roar and a hush at the same time.
This under-canopy dogwood, with blooms stemming from naked branches, was beside our patio table. Dappled in sunlight, people were stopping by to take photos of the blooms. They were like delicate glowing apples when the sun hit them just right. My friend and I were also fascinated by the blooming lanterns sunning themselves, emanating a gentle peacefulness. It was a message
of beauty, details, awareness, and gentle persistence. My friend and I left the patio wanting to create this beautiful experience in our own backyards. That is the power of nature when tended by people mindfully.
On Sundays, in season, do go visit the local farmer's market in Sedona for homegrown foods and goods. It is a wonderful place to get some amazing ingredients for some lovely salads, breads, hummus, mushrooms, and much more. And yes, there are soaps and balms, and skin care items, too.
A road trip to Jerome, in the opposite direction of Oak Creek, southwest of Sedona, this little and literal mountainside mining town is worth the trip for interesting ruins of a time gone by and the gems of artists who have flourished in the out-of-the-way town with a view. Plan to wear good walking shoes and know ahead of time you are either walking up a hill or down a hill almost the entire time you explore up there. It is a zig-zag of winding narrow streets from mining days and is perfect for the open-minded explorer with an artistic eye. I loved it. On your way down, check out Clarksville and Cottonwood for places to eat. (Try here for pizza).
The challenge in the realization of leaving a place you have enjoyed so much is like pulling a vine away from a tendril that has reached out and wrapped itself around you. You either need to gently unwind from the rapture of the energy or break away if the stronghold is quite tight. For me, it was the unwinding. I had an unexpected bonus day due to weather-related delays at home (which turned out to be not a problem). And yet, I got a bonus day of sunshine, meals, friendship, and even a Zuni turquoise totem of an animal (fetish) that called to me in a Katchina shop.
I was nurtured on many levels: friendship, food, land, air, rest, views, and the pulse of energy that was resonating with my being. Now, I can't say this had anything to do with what has long been marketed as sacred or energetic vortexes in Sedona. My personal opinion is I don't feel they hold the energy they are advertised to hold. They might have at one point, but I think the land has acclimated itself to other areas in which it distributes energy.
My experience is there is a goodnight lullaby with the golden glow in many sought-after photographs as the sun bids farewell to the mountains. There is a renewal and blessing of the moon each night. And in the morning, the other side of the mountains is bathed in first light. Native Arizonans and the cultures who have lived there for a long time know this rhythm of light and rest.
It is more about an intuitive understanding, an internal compass with the seasons, not just a hike or a pretty picture. It's being fed through the cells of an ancestral exchange of beingness.
After the fact, there is a memory now activated within the body. Any trip that fills your heart, body, and spirit is an energizer, a peacemaker, and an inspiration. Our thoughts can change our physical being when we resonate with memories that remind us of our place, purpose, and internal compass. It's easy to look at a picture of where you've been, the important part is bringing in the feeling of awe of what it was like to be there. So, whether you are a desert, beach, mountain, or city person, explore your world. It's more than just rocks.